ITALY'S highest court has dealt a blow to the trial of 26 US citizens accused of involvement in the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian man in Milan in 2003.
Siding with the government, the Constitutional Court said on Wednesday that prosecutors had used classified information to build the case and threw out some key evidence on which the indictments were based.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was in power at the time of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr's "disappearance," has long challenged the trial, arguing that if state secrets come out in open court the global intelligence community would ostracise Italy.
Though the judges did not formally scrap the indictments, lawyers said that the ruling would set back the case.
The US suspects - all but one of whom have been identified by prosecutors as CIA spooks - were accused along with seven Italian agents of snatching Mr Nasr off a Milan street in an "extraordinary rendition" operation co-ordinated by the CIA and Italy's SISMI military intelligence unit.
Prosecutors say that Mr Nasr was then transferred to US bases in Italy and Germany before being bundled off to Egypt, where he was imprisoned without charge for four years.
The now-released Mr Nasr said that during that time he was subjected to electric shocks, beatings and rape threats.
The trial in Milan was suspended pending the Constitutional Court's ruling, which was delayed several times.
When the trial resumes, Judge Oscar Magi must turn over evidence deemed classified, notably files of thousands of dossiers on prominent public figures seized from the Rome apartment of a SISMI agent, Pio Pompa.